In June 2016, while most of my friends and family were asleep early in the morning, I was getting live news updates as I sat outside my church in Ukraine. Seven hours ahead of Eastern Time, I was seeing the news about a shooting in an Orlando nightclub that left 50 dead. I remember the sense of horror that left tears in my eyes and a dull, empty feeling in my stomach.
One year later, that flood of emotions was renewed as I read stories and watched videos about 22 young people who died in Manchester, England, during a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert. Once again, there were tears as I read reporters and watched crying parents ask the same basic question: “Why would this happen?”
We as Christians would do well to pause and realize theirs is the right question to ask; we would help our own souls, as well as others, if we make their question our own.
That question has almost become the polite one to ask in tragic situations. We live in a world in which acts of violence are far from new or rare, but any time they happen on a large scale we absorb them through news sources almost in real time. The speed at which we are informed leaves the world demanding some sort of response from political speeches and celebrity Twitter accounts. While the truly sympathetic are left seeking the right words to communicate their broken-heartedness, and the opportunistic are using the tragic event to promote their social agenda, the overall question that burns in people’s hearts is often left unanswered.
“Why would this happen?” they ask. Or in a different vein, “Why are people this way?”
Christians have the answer, but that does not mean we discount the question or all the heartache that goes along with it. We ought to come alongside the world and look into that question until it burns into our heart and makes us more broken than they are. We can weep better than anyone because we know the real problem and the only real solution.
We know that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin” (Romans 5:12), and can point anyone to the testimony of Romans 1 that men are “full of murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness” (Romans 1:29). We can say that strife with the Creator has led to endless strife among men, and the innocent suffer as a result of the sins of others because we live in a fallen world.
The real reason for tragedy goes beyond what some would say — that death and murder are the results of one individual person or group’s cruelty. That answer is easier to the conscience, but it loses effectiveness with every bullet fired and every bomb detonated. The horrifying reason for suffering, according to the believer, involves the person in the mirror as well as the person on the news. Sin and rebellion against God are widespread and deep-rooted. It is only due to the mercy of God Himself that the world is not more broken and hurting than it already is.
The world’s proposed solution to tragedy is not wrong. We do want to unite over politically divided lines, to promote safety for ourselves and our neighbors, and to spread love and peace rather than hate and war. We as Christians should never denounce such ideas as wrong. They simply do not go deep enough. A problem as huge as rebellion against God demands a solution that is on God’s terms.
Our solution comes straight from God Himself, who sent His Son to destroy the works of the Devil (1 John 3:8). It answers suffering in the world with “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow:” an understanding that through the blood of Christ and the reconciliation with the Father that He provides, we can be free from bondage to sin and free to love our neighbors as ourselves. It offers the bright hope that living in response to God, even in the face of sorrows, is a part of the slow transformation that is even now taking place all across the globe, which will eventually lead to an end of wars and strife.
We know, but that does not mean the world will stop asking why things are as they are every time the consequences of sin are seen on the scale that was seen in Manchester in May 2017, or in Orlando June 2016, or in New York on September 11, 2001. We as Christians should be willing to ask with them.
Our Savior knew the true extent of sin and was Himself the perfect answer for suffering. He did not hesitate to look at state of the world and cry, whether at the grave of a friend (John 11:35) or looking over the city of His people (Luke 19:41-44). Christ is our example. We can look at the tragedies that hurt our world most deeply, and not only rest content in our assurance of the answer, but ask ourselves why these things occur until we are so gripped with a sense of the ruin in our fallen world that we can cry alongside the people on the news stories. We are called to feel for others because Jesus feels for us.
The world, when it asks why, asks the right question. We should be moved by the question so that we can be moved to deliver the answer.
(Editor's note: The above blog was written by Jacob Riley for Engage.)